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Life Sets Me On Fire!

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

What Inspires Me To Write For YOU, the Reader?

The most common question I get from people is ‘where do I get my ideas from, for my novels?’ I tell them, ‘it all just comes from life,’ and it really is as simple as that.

Like most writers, I’m observant about the world around me, and what’s going on in it, and even though I don’t often say so, there’s not much I don’t notice! I’m always interpreting what I see and hear, that I can work into my narrative. For example, in The Power of Notes and Spells (Book 2 in the Teapot Cottage series), three of the characters are sitting quietly, having a meal in an exclusive little Italian restaurant in London, when all of a sudden all hell breaks loose from the kitchen. Swearing occurs, many plates are smashed and thrown, and an employee runs for cover with his arms covering his head. That actually happened in front of me, while I was sitting having a meal in a restaurant in Genoa. Some of the details were ever-so-slightly changed to better fit the story, but the incident and the different reactions to it as they all played out in front of me that night were real, and absolutely worthy of being included in a book! I’ve never laughed so hard in my life, with disbelief. Did that happen? It did, so I made it happen again! And therein lies the answer to that constant question. Life plays out in front of me, and I harness different elements of it and weave it into stories that hopefully warm the heart.

I’m also a Psychologist with many years of training and work under my belt, and I’ve worked with a very wide range of people with myriad personalities and issues, but principally with young people and their families in the field of criminal justice. That has all provided me with very rich insight into family dynamics and dysfunction, and how complicated relationships can become within families. As a typical behavioural scientist, I am also a great observer of the impact on people, of relationship dynamics of various kinds. I’m interested in how they cope with their own (and other people’s) dysfunction, and how it influences their behaviour. And – like every psychologist - I’m less interested in the behaviour itself than I am in the reasons for it, and I write about what I know to be true.

Every character in my novels is a complex combination of people I have known or worked with, and every situation they deal with is drawn from my own and other people’s work, experience and observation. And that answers the other big question I’m often asked, as to whether my characters are based on real people. No character is a representation of just one person, but a carefully constructed blend of different facets of different personalities, to make them unique and special in their own way, just like individuals are in real life.

My next Teapot Cottage novel, entitled ‘When It’s Meant To Happen,’ is about to be released. It’s the third book in the series. Within that story, a difficult mother-daughter relationship comes under increasing pressure, and as the thornier knots in the relationship are unpicked, the mother’s own past trauma is unwittingly revealed. We are then able to understand and appreciate the impact it had on her ability to relate to her daughters.

This particular novel also does a stretch towards rounding out the character of the overall main protagonist (Adie Bostock/Raven) who makes appearances throughout the entire Teapot Cottage series. The plotlines include her becoming ever-more human and relatable to the reader as the series unfolds. For example, virtually an entire chapter is devoted to offering more insight about her vulnerabilities and trust issues, when someone else’s circumstances trigger memories for her. She recalls the pain of her own shocking experiences of friendships that blew apart. She reflects on the conversations she’s had with new friends, about old ones, sharing her truth with people she knew she could trust, who trusted her with their own similar experiences, and we see how powerful that leap of faith was, to her recovery.

Importantly, the confusion and heartbreak these women all felt, thought the loss of significant friendships ending, and how it happened in each case, were all real and visceral experiences at some point in the lives of women I know or have worked with. Painful realities woven into stories where people can end up learning and laughing thought sharing experiences, do, in my experience, demonstrate the very real resilience of the human spirit. They also remind the reader that as devastating as any loss can be, there is always a way to move forward. I believe these are important messages.

I do have a lot of fun developing characters, and making them relatable. A big challenge for me was one of the main protagonists in The Power Of Notes and Spells. Carla Walton starts off as a fairly nasty character who most people actively do their best to steer clear of. But as more of her history is revealed, and the reader gets to see what her journey has been, it becomes clearer that she has unwittingly allowed a past trauma to define her, and her behaviour has been driven by monsters she simply hasn’t found the courage to face. By the end of the story, she is in a better place for herself, for her family, and for the reader, who finally gets to see her redeeming features.

Carla was a real challenge for me as an author. Transitioning her from a resentful, self-avoidant, seething mass of misplaced rage, to a woman of real character, compassion and self-awareness was, like any journey, quite an undertaking. I had to call upon every scrap of experience I’ve ever had, with transitioning people consumed by anger and disappointment, but I do believe Carla is quite likeable in the end - for those who don’t mind hearing the truth, that is! She will never pull a punch and will never take a prisoner, and not everyone will like that about her – not that she cares! Having lost the savage, razor-blade edge to her sarcasm, she ends up being quite funny with it, and the big question I asked myself at the end of the ride with Carla, was; did I like her, myself? The answer was a resounding 'yes!' She was, at the end of the story, the kind of person I’d love to have as a friend - a straight shooter who meant what she said, and said what she meant, and would never give anyone an ounce of bulls**t.

Admitting that she's the kind of friend I'd like to have enabled me to feel like I’d done what I needed to, with her. She pops up in subsequent novels too, and always in an intriguing, enigmatic way, because she is a complex character, and she has capacity to entertain the reader until Kingdom Come! I have seen and felt Carla's true heart, and I’m looking forward to meeting her again soon, and seeing where she takes me. It’s always interesting, going anywhere with her! I’m itching to give you a spoiler but I’m restraining myself – with much effort!

I have to admit that some of my characters in the Teapot Cottage novels have become like friends to me. Now and then, (like everyone else I suppose) my own reality bores me, and that's when I'll sometimes pop into my own head, and try on a dress at Trudie’s boutique, or stuff my face with cake at Peg’s café. I’ll sit on top of the hill behind Ravensdown farmhouse, with my back against the Tor, and feel the wind blow my hair around. I might peep around Feen's workshop door and watch while she sends a spell or brews a magic potion for someone in need, and she's pretending she doesn't know I'm there. Or, I might just sit and do a bit of leg-dangling, on the tractor in the barn. and laugh at Mark while he swears to himself in his best ‘Lanky,’ about the job on the workbench that’s got the better of him, for now at least.

So there it is, my craft as a novelist; art imitating life, in all its confusing, infuriating and sometimes spectacular glory, where human behaviour, response and outcome is always a rollercoaster. The marriage of imagination and stark reality is peppered with a little magic; which isn’t really magic at all. It's actual bona-fide science - but don't get me started on that, in here! It has all filled my head with stories of recovery from trauma, triumph over adversity, and the resilience of the human spirit to build courageous castles of hope and belief from the worst of wreckage. I hope you enjoy the Teapot Cottage tales, and the enduring message behind them; that no matter what life throws at us, we can steady the ship, we can adjust the sails, and we absolutely can head off in a new and better direction.

See you in Torley! I’ll be the gal in the far-left corner of Peg’s café, scribbling into a notebook, but even though I’ll have my head down, I’ll probably still see you before you see me! And be careful what  you do or say while you're about, and simply being your lovely little self; you might just end up in the next book!

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